“If I could have done anything, I would have been a baseball player,” Professor Dan said.
As soon as Dan said this I knew I had made a new friend, even if he was wearing a Cardinals hat.
Long before he had educational aspirations, Dan attended Springfield Catholic High School. Through circumstances beyond his control, his baseball dreams were dashed the summer before his freshman year.
“I was in 8th grade and watching a game. There was foul ball hit my direction and I caught it and threw it back in to the third baseman. And I remember thinking, ‘Next year I’m going to be on this field.’ They discontinued the baseball program at the end of that summer.”
That is one of the saddest baseball stories I’ve heard this year.
Dan is now a political science professor at Drury, inspired to study the subject thanks to John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
“Even though I was born two and a half years after his death.”
Although he is a lifelong Cardinals fan, he was also a Reds fan for a while as well. “My mom bought some new shoes for me and my brother, and the shoes came with cards on the box. My brother chose the Willis Reed card, leaving me Johnny Bench. I was a Bench fan for years.”
Maybe that is why his sons are catchers. His youngest son plays on the team for Central High School, so it hasn’t been that long since Dan’s last game of catch.
Professor Dan told me stories about his dad being part of the Knothole Gang and playing catch with Cardinal greats Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst. He told me about burning off nervous energy during Game 6 of the 1982 World Series running wind sprints in the street and then going to Game 7 with his brother the next day. And he didn’t linger too long on Denkinger’s blown call in Game 6 just a few years later.
Side note: I think it would be a blast to play catch with Don Denkinger.
As we tossed the ball at Washington Park, trying our best to stay in the shade, I confessed my dislike for all things politics. For years, Professor Dan has focused his studies on presidential politics. He gave me the speech that he gives to students taking his introductory class and made me wish I would have had him as a professor twenty years ago.
And then I remembered my best day in politics. It was when I was in the White House with my daughters, listening to President Obama congratulate the 2015 World Series Champions.
We live in a day and time when politics is often incredibly divisive. We could all learn from the example of Don Denkinger.
When asked about his missed call years later, Denkinger replied, “It’s life and it goes on.”